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Gender and Obsidian Economy in Mesoamerica

Author(s): Brenda Arjona

Year: 2017

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Obsidian tool production in Mesoamerica has been considered primarily the work of men. It is important to examine the roles that women might have had in obsidian crafting. This paper uses results from a study of an obsidian assemblage from an unusual burial excavated at Puerto Escondido, Honduras, to explore the implications of women possibly being involved in stone tool production. In this burial one person was laid out on a bench, wearing an obsidian mirror, in a below-ground chamber, that was then filled with ashes and carbon from incense burning, smashed ceramics, and obsidian tools made from flakes and blades. Analysis of chemical composition using XRF shows that obsidian flakes at the site mainly came from local sources, while blades were imported from centers of specialist production. The use of local obsidian for expedient tools (confirmed through study of residues as used to process plant material) suggests other recorded examples of women making stone tools they use for common tasks. The mixed economy of obsidian at Puerto Escondido, with blades acquired from specialist centers and flake tools made from local material, could correspond to a division between a male gendered specialty and expedient production that included women.

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Gender and Obsidian Economy in Mesoamerica. Brenda Arjona. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431402)


Gender Lithics Obsidian

Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -107.271; min lat: 12.383 ; max long: -86.353; max lat: 23.08 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 16977

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America